|Publication number||US7888644 B2|
|Application number||US 12/359,319|
|Publication date||Feb 15, 2011|
|Filing date||Jan 25, 2009|
|Priority date||Mar 8, 2005|
|Also published as||US7564031, US20080191127, US20090179144, WO2006095344A2, WO2006095344A3|
|Publication number||12359319, 359319, US 7888644 B2, US 7888644B2, US-B2-7888644, US7888644 B2, US7888644B2|
|Inventors||Assa Fine, Chanoch Miller|
|Original Assignee||Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (32), Classifications (12), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 11/817,795 filed on Sep. 5, 2007, which is a National Phase Application of PCT/IL2006/000307 filed on Mar. 8, 2006, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to a method and system for optical surveillance of a wide angle or panoramic field of view.
In certain imaging applications, an extremely wide field of view (120° or more) optical system is required so that a very large two dimensional region of the object space may be monitored either continuously or repeatedly at short intervals. Examples of such application include: full earth surveillance from low altitude space platforms, missile launch warning from an airborne platform, and air-borne threat detection from a ground base location or a waterborne vessel.
One approach to monitoring such large fields of view is the use of a scanning linear detector array. Examples of this approach are described in patent publications U.S. Pat. No. 5,347,391 and EP 1416312 A1. Although such systems offer a cost-efficient solution for scanning large regions, they suffer from a number of shortcomings. Most notably, a scanning linear detector array by its very nature actually views each given pixel of object space for a very small proportion of each scanning cycle. As a result, there is a significant risk of transient events, such as the brief flash accompanying the launch of a missile, being missed between scans of the sensor.
An alternative approach is to use staring imaging sensors to monitor the region of interest. Examples of systems employing staring imaging sensors include patent publications U.S. Pat. No. 6,410,897 B1, U.S. Pat. No. 5,534,697 A and U.S. Pat. No. 5,300,780 A. In most cases, in order to achieve acceptable resolution and avoid problems caused by optical distortion, the field of view of each imaging sensor should be limited to 40-60°. In order to cover a larger solid-angle field of view, a scanning pattern is typically used, resulting in similar problems as described in the context of linear detector arrays discussed above. For truly continuous non-scanned monitoring of a large field-of-view at an acceptable resolution, a large number of imaging sensors deployed with overlapping fields-of-view would be required, thereby rending the system very expensive.
One non-limiting example used to illustrate the present invention is that of protection of naval platforms (waterborne vessels or ships). Ships are relatively vulnerable to attack by many kinds of missiles, such as sea-skimming missiles and gliding bombs, and successful deployment of various countermeasures for their defense is dependent upon early detection of incoming threats. Radar has for decades been the standard technique for search and tracking of airborne threats for naval and other air defense systems. Radar is problematic, however, since it requires active transmission of radio pulses which give away the presence of the vessel carrying the tracking system and may be used as a guide beacon to guide offensive armaments towards the vessel. To avoid this problem, attempts have been made to develop passive (i.e., non-transmitting) search and tracking systems based upon optical sensors, and in particular, infrared search and tracking (IRST) systems.
Naval applications highlight the aforementioned shortcomings of both scanning and staring systems. Implementation of IRST systems for naval applications poses particular problems in the trade-off between sufficient sensitivity and avoidance of false alarms. Air-borne threat detection requires an extremely wide field of view, typically covering an azimuth of substantially 360°. During the short time-on-target (or “dwell time”) of a scanning system, the background optical noise of solar glint from the moving surface of the water is almost indistinguishable from the heat emission of a head-on incoming missile. As a result, scanning systems tend to suffer from insurmountable problems of high false alarm rates. If a staring system is used, although the dwell time problem is solved, a different problem of resolution vis-à-vis cost limitations arises. In order to achieve reliable detection of a head-on missile threat at sufficient range to be useful, an angular pixel resolution of at least two, and preferably at least four, pixels per mille-radian is required. To achieve this resolution with conventional imaging arrays of several hundred pixels dimensions, as many as 40-80 imaging sensors would be required, rendering the system overly expensive.
In other contexts, it has been proposed to use a single imaging sensor with optical multiplexing to perform more than one imaging function. Examples include the aforementioned U.S. Pat. No. 6,410,897 B1 where a movable mirror is used to switch the optical sensor between a wide field of view optical objective and a narrow field of view optical objective. A similar concept of switching between narrow and wide fields of view is also disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,049,740, U.S. Pat. No. 4,486,662 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,804,976. Another example disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,574,197 provides a scanning rotating polygon which offers two fields of view used for stereoscopic viewing or for two independently steerable optical telescopes for display on separate screens. None of these references discloses optical multiplexing to offer two similar fields of view with different optical axes in fixed spatial relation as a solution for a staring surveillance system.
A further limitation of the aforementioned existing systems with optical multiplexing is that the optical switching frequency is typically limited by the read cycle rate of the sensor, i.e., the period taken to expose the array to incoming illumination and then read the resulting information from an array of capacitors associated with each sensor element. In order to avoid mixing of the content of the two images, the sensor array is exposed for a first integration time to the first field-of-view, the associated capacitors are read (a first read cycle), and then the sensor array is exposed to the second field of view and the capacitors are again read (a second read cycle). This mode of operation is referred to as “Read Then Integrate (RTI). For surveillance applications in which it is desired to detect transient events of duration similar to or less than the read-cycle of the sensor, this arrangement is problematic since an event may occur while the other field of view is being viewed and may therefore be missed by the sensor.
Finally, in the field of staring sensors with a single field of view, there exists a technique known as “Read While Integrate” (RWI) which substantially avoids dead-time during the output reading process between integration periods of a sensor. This technique is particularly useful when monitoring for transient flash events since it helps to ensure that even a transient event is picked-up by the sensor. “Read While Integrate” also effectively doubles the rate at which frames can be acquired using an array of light-sensitive sensors that produce electrical charge when the light that they are sensitive to impinges on them. The principle of RWI will now be illustrated with reference to
Although RWI provides an effective solution for substantially continuous monitoring of an imaging system field of view, it is of limited value where a single imaging sensor is used to switch between two or more fields of view since each field of view would still remain unmonitored for at least half the read cycle.
There is therefore a need for a wide field-of-view surveillance system based upon staring imaging sensors which would employ optical switching to provide quasi-continuous monitoring of a wide-angle field of view while requiring fewer imaging sensors than would otherwise be required for full field of view coverage. It would also be advantageous to provide an infrared search and tracking system which would provide an effective passive alternative to radar for detecting threats to platforms, such as waterborne vessels.
The present invention is a method and system for optical surveillance of a wide angle or panoramic field of view.
According to the present invention there is provided an imaging system comprising: (a) a two-dimensional imaging sensor array; and (b) an optical system including: (i) at least one optical arrangement associated with the imaging sensor array and defining a field of view of given angular dimensions; and (ii) an optical switching mechanism for alternately switching an optical axis of the imaging system between a first direction and a second direction, the optical switching mechanism and the at least one optical arrangement being deployed such that the imaging sensor array generates images of at least two substantially non-overlapping fields of view of equal angular dimensions, the substantially non-overlapping fields of view having diverging optical axes in fixed spatial relation.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism includes an apparatus that is alternately substantially transparent and substantially reflective.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism includes a rotatable disk including at least one pair of alternating segments, a first segment of each the pair being transparent and a second segment of each the pair being reflective.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one pair includes at least two pairs of segments, wherein the transparent segments are transparent to non-identical ranges of wavelengths and the reflective segments are reflective to non-identical ranges of wavelengths.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism includes a plurality of microelectromechanical shutters, the apparatus being substantially transparent when the shutters are open and substantially reflective when the shutters are closed.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism includes a pair of prisms and a prism displacement mechanism operative to displace at least one of the pair of prisms such that the pair of prisms are alternately adjacent and apart, the apparatus being substantially transparent when the prisms are adjacent and substantially reflective when the prisms are apart.
According to a further feature of the present invention, there is provided an imaging assembly comprising a plurality of the aforementioned imaging systems, wherein the imaging systems are deployed in fixed spatial relation such that the substantially non-overlapping fields of view of the plurality of imaging systems together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning at least 120°, and preferably at least 180°, and most preferably substantially 360°.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the plurality of the imaging systems includes at least three of the imaging systems.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism switches between the fields of view at a field-of-view switching rate, the imaging system further comprising a read arrangement for reading accumulated information from the two-dimensional imaging sensor array at a read cycle rate, wherein the field-of-view switching rate is greater than the read cycle rate.
According to a further feature of the present invention, there is also provided a processor configured for analyzing a sequence of images from the imaging system to determine whether they indicate the presence of a transient event.
There is also provided according to the teachings of the present invention, an infrared search and tracking (IRST) system for a waterborne vessel, the system comprising: (a) at least one stabilized platform; and (b) an imaging assembly deployed on the at least one stabilized platform, the imaging assembly including a plurality of the aforementioned imaging systems, wherein the imaging systems are deployed in fixed spatial relation such that the fields of view of the plurality of imaging systems together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning substantially 360°.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one stabilized platform is implemented as a plurality of the stabilized platforms, and wherein each of the stabilized platforms carries a corresponding subgroup of the plurality of imaging systems, the subgroup providing fields of view which together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning a corresponding given angle, the corresponding given angles together substantially spanning 360°.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one stabilized platform is implemented as two stabilized platforms for deployment on opposite sides of the waterborne vessel, and wherein a first of the stabilized platforms carries a first subgroup of the plurality of imaging systems, the first subgroup providing fields of view which together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning at least a first angle, and wherein the second of the stabilized platforms carries a second subgroup of the plurality of imaging systems, the second subgroup providing fields of view which together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning at least 360° minus the first angle, the first and second subgroups thereby together providing an effective field of view substantially spanning 360°.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one stabilized platform is stabilized to within a predefined level of precision, the system further comprising a fine stabilization arrangement including: (a) an inertial sensor arrangement associated with the stabilized platform for measuring residual motion of the stabilized platform; and (b) a processing system responsive to the inertial sensor arrangement to process images from the imaging assembly so as to correct the images so as to compensate for the residual motion.
According to a further feature of the present invention, each of the fields of view for each imaging system has a spatial resolution of at least two pixels per mille-radian.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the substantially contiguous effective field of view spans substantially 360° in azimuth and spans a range of at least about 8° in elevation.
According to a further feature of the present invention, there is also provided a processing system associated with the imaging assembly and configured to process images from the imaging systems according to a set of target detection criteria to identify suspected targets.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the target detection criteria include substantially continuous detection of a suspected target for a period in excess of about half a second.
According to a further feature of the present invention, there is also provided a gimbaled narrow field-of-view infrared imaging sensor having a field of view not greater than about 3°, the gimbaled narrow field-of-view infrared imaging sensor being associated with the processing system for directing towards suspected targets for evaluation of the suspected targets.
According to a further feature of the present invention, the optical switching mechanism is configured to switch the optical axis of the imaging system in two non-parallel switching planes such that each imaging system generates images of at least four fields of view forming a two-dimensional array of fields of view.
There is also provided according to the teachings of the present invention, an infrared search and tracking (IRST) system comprising an imaging assembly including a plurality of the aforementioned imaging systems, wherein the imaging systems are deployed in fixed spatial relation such that the fields of view of the plurality of imaging systems together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning at least about 40°.
The invention is herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:
The present invention is a method and system for optical surveillance of a wide angle or panoramic field of view.
The principles and operation of methods and systems according to the present invention will be better understood with reference to the drawings and the accompanying description.
Turning now to the drawings,
At this stage, it will already be appreciated that the present invention offers profound advantages of economy in cost and size by employing a single imaging sensor array with optical switching for monitoring double the non-switched field of view without any loss of spatial resolution. Thus, if an imaging system with its associated optics is configured to provide a basic field of view spanning 60°, the present invention may be employed to provide images spanning 120° using the same single optical sensor and without loss of spatial resolution. This principle can be extended by employing more than one optical switching mechanism 40 to monitor three or more fields of view using a single sensor, as illustrated schematically in
Before addressing the features of the present invention in detail, it will be useful to define certain terminology as used herein in the description and claims. Firstly, reference is made to fields of view which are “substantially non-overlapping”. This phrase is used to refer to fields of view which primarily cover different regions, but does not exclude the possibility of slight overlap at the periphery of the regions. To the contrary, it is typically preferred that the different fields of view have slight overlap (typically less than 5%) in order to ensure complete coverage of the combined region. Fields of view with peripheral overlap of this type are within the scope of “substantially non-overlapping” as used herein.
The term “two-dimensional imaging sensor array” is used herein to refer to any and all types of two-dimensional imaging sensor array, or “focal-plane array”. The type of sensor used, and the design of the associated optical components, is chosen according to the wavelengths of radiation to be sensed, as is well known to those ordinarily skilled in the art. Thus, the imaging sensor array may be a visible or near-infrared sensor chip of CCD or CMOS type, an ultraviolet sensor chip, or a far-infrared sensor of any type. For the preferred applications of the present invention for detection of missile threats or the like, infrared sensor arrays sensitive to radiation in the micron-range, and most preferably, an imaging sensor based on InSb detectors sensitive to infrared radiation of wavelengths between 3 and 5 microns.
It should be noted that the illustrations of read circuitry in
Turning now to the features of imaging system 30 in more detail, optical switching mechanism 40 typically includes an apparatus that is alternately substantially transparent and substantially reflective. Preferably, a high speed switching arrangement is used, capable of switching between its two states with a transition of less than one millisecond. One or more additional reflective element (e.g., a mirror) is typically used as shown to ensure the desired geometrical relation between the fields of view, as will be clearly understood.
In the preferred implementations of
Turning now to
Turning now to
Referring briefly specifically to
Turning now to the remaining features of imaging system 30, these include a sensor read arrangement 60 for reading data (typically accumulated charge) from sensor elements of the two-dimensional imaging sensor array and a controller 62 for controlling synchronous operation of the optical switching mechanism and the read arrangement to ensure correct separation of data from the two fields of view. Data from read arrangement 60 is transferred to a processing system 214 for subsequent image processing, preferably analyzing a sequence of images from the imaging system to determine whether they indicate the presence of a transient event. One example of the operation of processing system 214 will be addressed further below.
As mentioned above, switching between different fields of view may present problems for detection of flash events (e.g. a missile launch) of duration similar to or shorter than the period of the sensor read cycle. Specifically, there is a risk that the sensor may be viewing a different field of view for the entire duration of the flash event. It is a particular feature of certain most preferred embodiments of the present invention that switching between the plural fields of view monitored by the imaging sensor array is performed at a frequency greater than, and preferably at least four times greater than, the read cycle rate. This requires provision of a specially configured sensor read arrangement 60 as will now be described with reference to
Specifically, with reference to
Although a basic implementation of this fast-switching methodology requires only two read capacitors per sensor element, as described up to this point, most preferred implementations employ four read capacitors per sensor element of the array to combine the fast switching methodology with the read-while-integrate approach described above. Thus, in the case illustrated here, capacitors 112 and 114 are supplemented by third and fourth sets of read capacitors 113 and 115. During a first time period as illustrated in
Parenthetically, it should be appreciated that the choice of four read capacitors per sensor element is sufficient for the application described, but may be increased as necessary for alternative implementations according to the present invention. Thus, for example, the band filter implementation of
It will also be clear to one ordinarily skilled in the art that the specific topography of the switching arrangements described in this example can be rearranged without departing from the principles of the present invention.
It will be appreciated that the principles of the present invention may be applied to a wide range of applications wherever it is useful to monitor a plurality of fields of view using a reduced number of staring sensors. Although applications employing a single imaging system fall within the scope of the present invention, most preferred implementations provide an imaging assembly where two or more imaging systems according to the present invention are deployed in fixed spatial relation such that the substantially non-overlapping fields of view of the plurality of imaging systems together form a substantially contiguous effective field of view spanning at least 120°, and more preferably at least 180°, For various surveillance applications, three or more field-switching imaging systems are employed to provide panoramic (360° azimuth) coverage. In this context, it will be noted that the plural FOVs of each individual imaging system need not be contiguous if the FOVs of the different imaging systems are interspersed in a complementary manner so as to together offer substantially contiguous coverage.
As mentioned earlier, the scope of the present invention is not confined to FOV doubling, but includes, in general, M-fold FOV expansion.
Turning now to
As before, it will be appreciated that the present invention offers profound advantages of economy in cost and size for implementation of an IRST system by multiplying the field of view which can be monitored by each imaging sensor array without any loss of spatial resolution. The system is effectively a staring system, thereby avoiding all of the aforementioned limitations of scanning systems. Thus, if an imaging system with its associated optics is configured to provide a basic field of view spanning 15°, complete coverage of a panoramic (360° azimuth) field of view can be provided by about 12 imaging systems in contrast to the 24 sensors which would be required according to the teachings of the prior art. This number can be reduced further if multiple switching is employed to provide more than two fields of view per imaging sensor. The system also preferably provides an elevation field of view of at least about 8°, in contrast to the 2°-4° of conventional scanning systems, thereby providing effective detection of air-launched missiles and gliding bombs. Furthermore, vertical switching of fields of view may additionally be used to increase the elevation field of view. For example, an imaging sensor with a basic FOV of 8°×8° may be used with horizontal and vertical switching in sequence to monitor four quadrants covering a total of roughly a 16°×16° field of view as shown in
Turning now to the features of IRST system 202 in more detail, it will be noted that the subdivision of the imaging systems between one or more stabilized platform is somewhat arbitrary. In certain cases where a suitable panoramic vantage point is available, such as high on a mast of a ship, it is possible to mount all of the required imaging systems on a common platform. In many cases, however, it is convenient for practical reasons to subdivide the imaging systems around the periphery of the vessel. In the case of
In order to provide the required sensitivity for detecting distant head-on missiles, each of the fields of view for each imaging system preferably has a spatial resolution of at least two, and preferably at least four, pixels per mille-radian. Each imaging system field of view preferably spans a range of at least about 8° in elevation.
As already mentioned, the imaging systems of IRST system 202 are mounted on one or more stabilized platform 204. Such platforms, well known in the art and commercially available from numerous sources, typically provide isolation from gross motions of pitch and roll of a ship, but do not compensate motions sufficiently to completely eliminate their impact on high resolution images such as those of the IRST system 202. Accordingly, most preferred implementations of the present invention provide a fine stabilization arrangement (see
One of the functions preferably performed by processing system 214 is processing images from the imaging systems according to a set of target detection criteria to identify suspected targets. Of particular importance is a detection criterion requiring substantially continuous detection of a suspected target for a period in excess of about half a second. This criterion is highly effective for eliminating false alarms due to background optical noise, and particularly solar glint from the surface of the sea.
Turning now to
According to one preferred option, IRST system 202 also includes a gimbaled narrow field-of-view infrared imaging sensor 216 (
In all other respects, it should be appreciated that imaging systems 208 are preferably implemented according to any or all features described above in the context of imaging systems 30 and 30′. For example, IRST system 202 is preferably configured for detecting both slowly varying targets, such as incoming missiles in flight, i.e., with a time constant greater than that of the background solar clutter, and transient “flash” events, such as the launching of a missile, with a time constant less than that of the background solar clutter. For this purpose, the imaging system preferably includes fast switching and other features described above which are helpful in detection of transient flash events.
Although the above illustration has been given in the context of application to a navel vessel, it will be appreciated that the present invention may equally be applied to other IRST systems or other types of surveillance systems from other land-based, airborne or satellite platforms. Details of such implementations, and modifications where necessary, will all be clear to one ordinarily skilled in the art by analogy to the above description.
While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, it will be appreciated that many variations, modifications and other applications of the invention may be made within the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||250/334, 359/403, 250/234|
|International Classification||G02B23/08, H01J5/16, G02B26/10|
|Cooperative Classification||H04N5/232, H04N5/2254, H04N5/23238|
|European Classification||H04N5/232, H04N5/225C4, H04N5/232M|
|Jun 12, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Nov 25, 2014||CC||Certificate of correction|